Another home-town tourism post..
I’d thought about heading to Atlanta today to see my oldest, since daughter is home from college for a couple of weeks, but he had to work, so we just hung around here instead.
Most of today (Mother’s Day) threatened rain around Birmingham, and at times made good on that threat.
But it didn’t stop me from pulling my troops out (with the temporary addition of daughter home from college) into the wild:
Red Mountain Park is the newest addition to the Birmingham outdoor recreation landscape, and what I think will be quite a fascinating spot, not only to stretch our legs, but also to learn and think about the intersection between nature and human effort that birthed this city, since the land was the site of iron ore mining operations for decades.
This first trailhead just opened a couple of months ago, but the park will be quite extensive, with trails winding their to and around various artifacts of industrial archaeology, remnants of the decades of iron ore mining that took place there.
We only were able to get to one of those artifacts today – I don’t know what it was, but here it is:
I know there are more sites of interest, but it starting raining fairly steadily while we were there, and even though the forest canopy protected us from most of it, thunder hinted at something stronger. Since I couldn’t see the sky, thanks to that same protective canopy, I couldn’t discern the source of what might be heavier rain, so we cut our hike short.
We’ll be back, though. It’s good now, but as time goes on, I’m sure it’s just going to get better.
Then waaaaaaay to the other end of Red Mountain – so far that it’s hard for me to understand how they are actually the same formation, but they are, back up to the Vulcan.
(This photo isn’t from today, obviously.)
It’s a really nice park, contructed originally by the WPA , and presently very well-maintained – although unfortunately, the cascades that were apparently part of the original construction are no longer there.
Of course it’s a tourist hub, and the place does a nice job with the small museum next to the statue, which briefly narrates the history of the mining and foundry in this area – which has definitely had its ups and downs.
Been there several times before, but today I wanted to check out an exhibit they’re running on the Greek immigrant presence in Birmingham.
It was just in one small room, and I would have enjoyed seeing a few more artifacts and photos, but it got the job done: explaining the origins of the Greek presence, its impact, and how the Greek community responded to various forces and pressures of life in Birmingham, from economic ingenuity to preserving Greek culture (through Greek schools and the “Lord Byron Society” and the church, of course) to its impact on the local cuisine.
I was interested in the latter, since really, the number of Greek, Greek-influenced, and (to cast the net further south) Middle-Eastern-influenced restaurants here is striking. The exhibit, though small, did a good job of pointing out how the Greek community influenced fast food (as you can see from the sign!) and fine dining, pioneering white-tablecloth dining here in a town lacking in such services in the early 20th century.
European immigrants were drawn to Birmingham in great numbers in the late 19th and early 20th century, as the history of the Roman Catholic – with its Latin, Syriac and Maronite parishes here, the Orthodox churches and the deeply-rooted Jewish community demonstrate. There are pockets in outlying areas – like Brookside, a tiny community that was a mining company town originally heavily populate by Slovaks – and which still has a Russian festival, which we attended a couple of years ago and I wrote about here.
(And what an odd juxtaposition I encountered a couple of weeks ago – and here’s a rabbit hole for you, so be ready – which brought together two recent travel destinations plus home – reading this historical monograph about Sicilian immigration to the Monterey Peninsula, the bibliography of which led me to this article about Sicilian women and education, which opens with a scene concerning a woman in Sutera (which I saw from a distance on its dramatic mountaintop, was intrigued by, but did not visit) in1908 welcoming her husband home from the four years he has just spent working in – you guessed it – coal mines outside of Birmingham, Alabama. )
So. A quiet, tourist-in-your-own-town kind of day, this Mother’s Day…made odd only by the two female tourists-from-out-of-town (and the country, perhaps, judging from their accents) – who saw the two boys sitting on a bench at the Vulcan, and asked them if they could take their photograph…
(They said no, by the way.)